Are you familiar with the Red Car Syndrome? You buy a red car and then everywhere you look you see red cars? That’s what happened to me since I wrote last month’s post about Dana Carney’s research on how our physical stance determines the degree of confidence we convey to others. Having just watched ten speakers in a row, all with varying degrees of bad posture, I am more convinced that this one element of public speaking is worth further discussion.
Luckily, the National Posture Institute has done all the work for us. They offer the “four points of posture” with simple cues that can be used to learn and maintain better postural alignment:
1. Stand Tall: Visualize the vertebral column lengthening and growing taller
2. Hold Chest High: Visualize opening up the chest and creating a 90° angle of the neck and shoulders by leveling out the shoulders
3. Retract Scapulae: Visualize holding a pencil between the shoulder blades
4. Contract Abdominals: Visualize drawing the belly button toward the spine and contracting the core muscles.
When we coach our presenters, we include a few more tips:
For men: Keep your weight on the balls of your feet and don’t rest your chin in your hand (aka: the pontificator). This causes your head and neck to push forward, not to mention that you appear less confident and more, well, like you have an itchy beard.
For women: Avoid wearing heels so high that your hips and lower back pitch forward. If you can’t maintain the four-point postural alignment then change your shoes.
For everyone: Don’t lock your knees unless you want to faint in front of your audience!
You may have set a New Year’s Resolution or two. If any of them have to do with improving overall health, getting rid of back or neck pain, becoming a better presenter, or maybe even finding a life partner, posture is one of the essential elements to achieving that goal.
Let’s make 2012 the Year of the Powerful and Confident Posture.